T-Mobile US signed new five-year, "multi-billion-dollar agreements" with both Ericsson and Nokia for the further expansion of its 5G network.
The self-styled "uncarrier" has been working with the two European vendors on 5G for some time, also signing $3.5 billion agreements with each of them in 2018. T-Mobile said last year that it will use 5G equipment from Nokia and Ericsson in its three-year, $43 billion network-upgrade project following its merger with Sprint.
Sprint was using kit from Ericsson and Nokia as well as Samsung before the merger with T-Mobile. However, Samsung seems to have been left out of T-Mobile's 5G plan.
In a statement, T-Mobile said the two new deals form part of its network investment following the Sprint merger, and will enable it to add more 5G coverage, capacity, speed and "advanced technical capabilities" across all of its spectrum bands.
The operator said it aims to add capabilities such as voice-over-5G (VoNR), network slicing, and multi-user massive MIMO to its 5G network.
T-Mobile also confirmed that what it describes as "extended range 5G" in the 600MHz band now covers 280 million people across nearly 1.6 million square miles. What it terms "ultra capacity" 5G, using the 2.5GHz frequencies gained from Sprint, is said to be available in more than 1,000 cities and towns, covering more than 106 million people.
Nokia indicated that it is supplying its AirScale radio platform and will implement massive MIMO technology in the 2.5GHz band. The Finnish vendor said it will also help T-Mobile to upgrade its midband LTE network to 5G and expand the lowband 5G network.
Sweden-based Ericsson said it is supplying active and passive antennas across T-Mobile's entire spectrum portfolio, complemented by massive MIMO capacity over midbands and highbands.
What, no open RAN?
The new five-year deals with the two traditional mobile network suppliers would also seem to lock out smaller suppliers of alternative open radio access network (RAN) products over that period.
Indeed, Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile, has been fairly downbeat about alternative open RAN technologies.
Late last year, Ray said open RAN is "not ready for prime time for us" and indicated that "the fastest and quickest and most meaningful way I can roll out a 5G network at real pace is what we're doing today. I'm not going to go and chase a bunch of capital efficiencies which I'm not sure exist at this point."
The T-Mobile executive is certainly not alone here. Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three UK, said last month that the operator's focus is on rolling out with Ericsson. "We won't be waiting around for open RAN," he said.
Verizon has been more upbeat, saying that it fully supports the open RAN trend. However, CTO Kyle Malady also said he doesn't view open RAN as the immediate, ultimate solution for every operator, everywhere.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading